A fireplace insert can turn your old, inefficient fireplace into a clean burning, heat generating machine. The warmth, sights and sounds of a fire inside the fireplace is something most people love and enjoy.
Huddled around the open fire while it's snowing outside can help relax almost anyone. But....just how efficient is that old fireplace? Well, actually a standard fireplace is not very efficient at all.
A standard fireplace only transfers about 15 percent of the heat into the room. The rest goes up the chimney. Also, the fireplace needs a constant supply of fresh air to fuel the fire.
This fresh air is drawn in from every small crack or opening in your house, causing distant rooms to feel cold and drafty.
In the long run, a fireplace can actually decrease the heat in your home, not increase it.
So what can be done to an existing fireplace to make it more efficient and possibly use it to heat your home? Try looking into a fireplace insert.
Inserts are made from steel or cast iron and generally have clear glass doors on the front, allowing you to see the fire inside. The inserts fit into your existing fireplace, turning your conventional fireplace into a heat generating machine......kind of like a wood stove.
Inserts are much more efficient than a standard open fireplace because they reduce or eliminate the drafts throughout the house generally associated with an open fireplace. They also burn more efficiently.
The units can be equipped with a blower system that blows the hot air throughout the room, creating warmth throughout the home.
Some models are controlled by a thermostat for even more comfort.
Inserts are also safer than an open fireplace because they are sealed units, meaning the fire is sealed off from the rest of the home eliminating the threat of a rolling log or sparks from jumping out on to your living room floor.
An insert is a wood burning device that requires proper maintenance to protect both the device and your home. Most manufactures suggest running a new liner through the chimney to increase safety.
The major concern with an insert, as with most wood burning devices, is creosote. Creosote is a deposit that forms on the inside of the chimney walls that can build up over time and create a chimney fire.
The deposits form from unburnt gasses that adhere to the chimney. Creosote is dangerous and the chimney or pipe should be regularly cleaned and maintained by a certified professional.
The fireplace inserts you buy today are regulated by the Environment Protection Agency, or EPA. The EPA has strict standards that control the amount of harmful emissions released into the air. The new, more modern inserts are clean burning and produce less emissions than a standard fireplace.
Generally speaking, an insert will cost between $1,200 - $2,500 depending on the model. Installation, accessories and additional parts will be an added expense.
One limitation to the unit is the need for an existing fireplace. Inserts also generate heat in one room.....the room where they're located. Blowers help circulate the heat to nearby rooms, but ceiling height, floor plans and insulation will all be a factor in how much heat your feel in attached rooms.
Overall, depending on your heating needs, a fireplace insert can effectively heat your home for a relatively low start up cost. While they may not be as popular as the traditional wood burning stove, inserts have supplied many homes with enough heat to stay comfortable through the winter.
It's important to choose a model that will fit the size of your existing fireplace opening, and choose one that will generate enough heat to meet your needs. Nothing is worse than spending money on a unit that you're not satisfied with. Shop around, do research and choose the best model for your home.